Painting a Queen

This morning I walked down to the allotment in the glorious May sunshine. Everyone clearly had the same idea, and it was lovely to see everyone out and busy.

First job was to open up the greenhouse to make sure Emily and her chicks had some fresh cool air. I topped up their food and cleared out the water. Honestly, it’s like Emily prefers to drink damp sawdust rather than fresh clean water. All three chicks were happily following Emily around the run. Their wing feathers are continuing to grow beneath their fluff.

I joined everyone in the clubhouse when the tea bell went. Cuppa teas and biscuits all round as we discussed the weather and our crops. Eventually, we all decided we should do something productive, and I pottered off to finish weeding the strawberry bed.

It looks so much better now but the mare’s tail is an absolute nightmare to get rid of. The roots go so deep, it’s almost impossible to fully dig it out without reaching Australia! Hopefully there is enough room for the strawberry plants to grow properly this year.

Next I ambled down to the main coop to say hello to the girls. They were all there sunbathing in the dirt and enjoying the sunshine. I put out their treats and spent an enjoyable few minutes watching them. I collected three eggs and left them to finish their dust baths.

Luckily as I walked back up the path to the shed, the tea bell rang again. I swung by and had a chat with Chris and Geoff. We were discussing the site and how the council had legal obligations to provide allotments if there is enough demand for it. If there is less than 50% occupancy then the site is at risk of being lost and the council usually builds on it. In order to save their sites, plot holders have been known to take on 3 or more plots. Several people on our site have more than one plot and this can cause tension because everyone would like more growing space. Now our site is oversubscribed, it’s hard to get a second plot so people have taken to sharing. I mentioned to Chris that we would like a half plot extra and he said that there were a couple of plots likely to come up shortly. There’s no rush for us as Rachael has kindly let us have a section of her second plot. But I would love to have a half plot extra to grow some more fruit – and have a few extra chickens!

Steve and Will appeared while we were talking and Steve asked if I was free to do the bees. We got all suited up and armed with a hive tool and smoker. The main hive is enormous and we will shortly have to split it again.

Steve got busy opening it up, the supers are so heavy I can’t lift them. We used the hive tool to scrape away the excess brace comb which the bees build to make their hive secure. The last time we checked the hive the brace comb had such the frames from the box below to the one above. It was a nerve-wracking moment when some of the stuck frames full of bees dropped to the floor! Steve scraped the top and bottom of each frame to make sure we could remove them safely.

One section of comb we removed was full of drone larvae. I haven’t seen the larvae this close before and it was interesting to see what they looked like as the developed in the comb.

It took a while but we found the Queen in the hive. Over the past year, her paint spot has worn off so when I spotted her, Steve grabbed the paint ready to redo it. I kept the frame still and my eyes fixed on her as he dabbed her with the paint. Sporting a large red dot on her back should make spotting her easy next week.

Next we moved onto the nuc box to check on how the new Queen is doing. Because she is a new Queen this year, she has a bright green spot on her. It is far easier to spot than the red dot on the other Queen. The new colony seems to have accepted her and will slowly build up the population over the next few weeks.

After checking the bees, I wandered off to see how the rest of the plot was doing. Aside from some weeds, it’s looking pretty respectable.

Tomorrow, I will be down to pot on the plants in the greenhouse and plant out a few more seeds.

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